Spousal maintenance (also known in other countries as “allowance” or “alimony”) is the financial support paid by one spouse to the other following the breakdown of a marriage or a de facto relationship.
The primary objective of spousal maintenance is to enable the recipient spouse to financially re-establish themselves (for example, to gain the necessary training or skills to re-enter the workforce).
Am I entitled to spousal maintenance?
A party to a de facto relationship or marriage is not automatically entitled to spousal maintenance. The separated spouse is required to demonstrate to the Court that:-
- They do not have the ability to financially support themselves (for example they may be unable to work or have a limited ability to do so due to the care of children, an illness or disability); and
- The other party has the financial resources to support the Applicant.
The amount a party will receive is based on the parties’ respective financial circumstances.
In making their determination, the Court will consider a myriad of factors including:
- Whether the parties have the care of a child under the age of 18 years of age;
- The age and state of health of the parties;
- The income, property and financial resources of the parties;
- The Applicant’s ability to obtain employment;
- The commitments of the parties to financially maintain themselves, a child or another person;
- What is a “suitable standard” of living.
What types of spousal maintenance are there?
The Court has a broad power in relation to spousal maintenance orders. Spousal maintenance may be paid on a periodic basis (weekly/fortnightly/monthly) or on a lump sum basis.
Types of spousal maintenance orders include among other things:
- Urgent spousal maintenance orders:
A party may make an urgent application in circumstances where there is an immediate need for financial support.
- Interim spousal maintenance orders:
An interim spousal maintenance order is made pending a further Court order and can be made for a short-term or indefinite period of time.
- Final spousal maintenance:
A final order for spousal maintenance is made for an indefinite period.
Is there a time limit to make a spousal maintenance application?
Yes. It is important to ensure you are aware of the time limits in place when considering making a spousal maintenance application. A spousal maintenance application can be made at any time following separation, however an application must be made within 12 months of a divorce order being made (for married couples) and within two years of separation for a de facto couple.
What if my ex-partner and I have reached an agreement regarding spousal maintenance?
There are two different options to formalise the terms of an agreement reached between you and your spouse in relation to spousal maintenance:
In brief, Consent Orders detail the agreement reached between parties and are submitted to the Family Court, together with an Application. The Court will only approve the Orders if the terms are considered appropriate. In contrast, a Binding Financial Agreement is not submitted to the Court and does not require the Court’s approval.
The impact of COVID-19 on spousal maintenance
If a spouse has lost their job, is no longer able to work or their work hours have been reduced as a result of the current economic climate, this may affect the amount of spousal maintenance that is required to be paid or the receiving spouse’s entitlements pursuant to any Court Orders or other agreement reached between parties.
Farrell Family Lawyers can assist you by:
- Advising you in relation to your potential eligibility and entitlement to spousal maintenance;
- Advising you in relation to your former spouses’ potential entitlements to spousal maintenance;
- Formalising any agreement reached between you and your former spouse by way of Consent Orders or a Binding Financial Agreement;
- Making an application or responding to a spousal maintenance application.